Hood River, Oregon

The 99s fly-out to Hood River was especially special; my first flight after 3 months of surgery, healing and physical therapy. Not only was the destination an exciting, gorgeous place but again I was on wing. My grin spread from one side of the plane to the other. The wx gods threw in a bonus package of warm, clear, still days without the howling winds that the Colombia Gorge attracts.

Petaluma’s morning stratus burn off of 10:00 allowed for a respectable departure time. This way you can enjoy the cup of coffee, morning paper, walk the dog and still have the grace to arrive at the airport unfrazzled. North bound out of CA was bumpless. Golden summer tones carpet hillsides while the Central Valley was a quilt of screaming green rice fields. Your sight line is always Mt. Shasta when leaving CA this way.

Once in OR we sailed up the east side of the Cascades passing lines of ancient volcanic activity. This is where geography really gets fun trying to remember the names of all the peaks. There’s McLaughlin, Thiesen, Diamond, Crater, Bachelor, Sisters, Jefferson, Hood and Adams. Turbulence picked up to popcorn popper so we climbed to 10.5K’ to find smoother air.

After about 2.5 hours the great canal of the northwest, the Colombia River, came into view. What an incredible waterway bisecting the Cascades, providing routes for humans, wildlife and history. Hood River sits right down in the gorge in a lovely valley that makes for an easy approach. If it wasn’t for having to find the airport and land the plane I could have enjoyed the scenery so much more.

Three rivers, White Salmon, Hood and Colombia, join up, book ended by Mt. Adams glacial slopes to the north and Mt Hood’s majesty to the south. Not a bad view for hundreds of miles. Vast orchards; apple, pear, peach, cherry fill the valley along with the growing industry of vineyards. You cross Hood River on short final and touch down to a very friendly place.

The Western Antique Aviation Museum has a huge collection of vintage aircraft right on the field. Once a month they roll the elder planes out for a spin around the patch. Too bad we can’t do that for all of the aging pilot population too. On Sat., when I was out for a hike, I could hear the sound of round echoing off the hills. Lucky guys!

Beth Behrens had made arrangement to rent a beautiful, 4 bedroom home on a bluff overlooking the Colombia River. There were 11 of us coming; Val and Mike, Nina and Len , Kitty, Beth and Rich, Julia and Mark, Don and I. Julia Mark, Don and I made reservations to stay at a hotel just a few minutes down the road from the house. Little did I know this wasn’t just a hotel but an elegant inn that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The Colombia Gorge Hotel is perched on a bluff, next to a waterfall, surrounded by immense lawns, flower beds, streams, bridges carved out of black lava rock. The foyer is the place where one lingers immersed, in a graceful period of life from long ago. Tall windows look out on the Colombia River, comfy, elegant furnishings beckon. Julia got to know the bartender well and got the inside scoop on the hikes and attractions of the area. What a treat to walk into!

By the time we walked down to the house Beth had cocktails and dinner all ready. The unfortunate news was that Val and Mike had plane troubles and never lifted off, and Len was down with bronchitis. Kitty arrived around 7:00 and our alfresco dinner was highlighted by a setting sun across the river on Mt. Adams. Desert was a sky full of stars and a meteorite shower to wish upon. What a day!

After Don and I moved from the hotel into the house Fri. morning we all took off for the high country. Don was intent on biking all the mountain trails and the rest of us drove up to Mt. Hood to explore the alpine.

The jewel of Mt. Hood National Park is the Timberline Lodge. Built in 1937, in just 18 months, the lodge is a magnificent memorial to the men and women of the depression who hand crafted everything in the building. Beams are massive, hand hewn spans five feet in diameter, wrought iron is beautifully crafted and used for railings, furniture and hardware, wood working and carving for stairs, furniture, panels and doors could fill a museum. This is truly one of the seminal creations of our ‘Craftsman’ era. One looks at the exquisite work and believes this was Americas most creative and beautiful period of design. Some of us settled into the Rams Head Bar in search of the best Blood Mary, while downstairs others found the hidden Blue Ox Bar and its stained glass windows depicting Paul Bunyan’s life. You could spend a whole day exploring the site, enjoying the docent tours and wandering the mountain sides.

Even though we had aspiration for a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, the winds and blowing sand forced us down the mountain for a more protected trail. Lunch was at the Mt. Hood Brewing Company. Oregon is known for their breweries and we were out to explore as many as possible.

Julia’s sleuthing had us trekking up a lovely, shaded trail to the Tomanawas Falls. The roaring river drops 200’ before exploding into a huge mist field and pool. The trail was about 5 miles round trip and a great choice for all. That evening the ‘foodie town’ of Hood River was too much to resist. Why cook when you’re surrounded by great food? Being that the winds of the gorge had taken the weekend off, dinners were all outdoors, relaxed and delicious.

Saturday woke up to a day saturated in early heat. Kitty, Beth and Rich took off for kayaking and swimming in the Colombia, Don pedaled up for more mountain biking trails and I laced up my hiking shoes. Too many trails, not enough time! Julia and Mark were aloft with the sunrise due to a wedding back in Nevada City.

After the trail time Don and I explored another brew pub, Full Sail Brewery, in downtown Hood River. We still had two more breweries to visit and running out of liver space. The heat of the afternoon enforced a lazy day in the shadows of the trees of our outpost. A telescope perched out on the bluff kept us all entertained with river traffic, people in kayaks, bird life and glorious scenery.

Sunday morning had us packing up early to beat the 95’ heat and get airborne. This time we flew low down the gorge, west bound to Portland and then a sharp left turn along the west side of the Cascades. Just a thin line of virga and building CUs near the Medford area before we entered CA. Hood River really needs a return trip to explore it again. Great friends, great fun, great flying.


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